Re: "Pandas" evolves into a new edition

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Nov 09 2005 - 08:49:58 EST

I'll provide another interpretation of these events, from much closer to
Dover--namely, 15 miles. I personally know some of those involved in this.

The problem wasn't "teaching a scientifically vacuous scientific concept,"
the problem was that the First Amendment restrictions (as defined by earlier
courts clearly and unambiguously) were ignored by several creationist board
members, who pushed their agenda in spite of legal advice from their own
attorneys, from lawyers at TDI, and from the information they would have
garnered from Ed Larson's workshop (which I organized). I had myself
volunteered to do a seminar for the school board in Dover, or at a local
church, and got silence for a response.

ID can in fact be discussed--not "taught," in that there is no alternative
theory per se to teach--in high school science classes. It is legitimate
for a teacher to mention explanatory difficulties with evolution if they
wish, as long as there is a clear secular educational purpose for doing so.
This is not just my opinion as a non-legal expert on the issue, it is Ed
Larson's opinion as the leading legal expert on the issue. Two past
presidents of the history of science society, whom I spoke to this past
weekend, also agree with this view. They agree that it is "vacuous" (to use
Pim's word, which they would agree with as I will use it IMO) to claim that
science makes no metaphysical assumptions, and that it is therefore
religiously neutral.

It is also a matter of fact, not opinion, that there is a professional
literature in philosophy of science in which ID is discussed, a small but
growing professional literature in which some of the top philosophers of
science in the world are involved. It's controversial, but most topics in
philosophy of science are/have been controversial--Kuhn's paradigms,
Popper's falsificationism, let alone Polanyi's personal knowledge (which is
IMO far and away the best of those ideas). If a science teacher in a
science class wishes to discuss challenges to the explanatory efficacy of
Darwinian evolution, it's entirely appropriate to do so in the context of
discussing some philosophy of science. And I don't think anyone's
educational experience is harmed by this, indeed I think it's enhanced when
students actually have to *think* about the relationship between theory and

The problem here is specific to the Dover context--local creationists, with
clearly expressed religious motivations to something clearly against clear
precedents. They had their own ideas about this and no one could dissuade
them. They had a war chest of taxpayer dollars to waste, and that's one of
the main reasons why they were tossed out yesterday. There's a lot of
bitterness in a divided community.

They blew it. They might also have blown it for the larger, legitimate
issues I have referred to above.

It's also true as I've said before, that TDI really had nothing better to
expect, given their own political decisions to go after money from people
who want to use controversial ideas about science to overthrow secularism in
the academy and then in the larger culture. That put them into bed with the
creationists, and that was their fatal error here. The truth--or at least
the freedom to discuss ideas related to the determination of truth--is the
biggest loser, however.

Received on Wed Nov 9 08:51:43 2005

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